Buy the ticket, take the ride. Good advice, but after the credits roll what are we left with? Modern Warfare 2’s campaign is certainly a rollicking thrillcoaster, but the convoluted story has left many scratching their heads. The plot is like one of those magic eye puzzles – if you defocus a certain way, you trick yourself into seeing depth. In fact, the characters’ actions and motivations are utterly nonsensical, and trying to understand them will merely rob you of hours of enjoyment. So let’s try anyway!
The best place to start is with the “No Russian” mission, as it sets the rest of the plot in motion. We certainly applaud the attempt to explore storytelling methods that are unique to videogames. The scene presents its subject matter in a way no mere movie could. While butchering innocents in first person was an effective shock tactic, the terrorist mission and its repercussions are implausible as plot devices.
Above: Future Russia can’t afford facial recognition software
As the mission opens, we’re treated to General Shepherd reciting a litany of Makarov’s excesses over a montage of shocking headlines. Makarov is an internationally known figure of menace, then, with a Russian military record. So when he confidently machineguns his way through the airport without even bothering to put on a mask, are we to believe that the Russian authorities weren’t able to identify him from security camera footage?
Above: If only there was a picture of the suspect! Oh, wait…
Instead, Russia blames a nobody CIA agent found dead at the scene who was killed by a point-blank pistol shot to the head. That doesn’t raise any red flags at all? The obvious conclusion is that the whole thing was an American plot, and that a full-scale invasion of the continental US is the appropriate response. The transition to the Takedown favela mission begets more confusion, such as: how did Shepherd tie the shell casings to Rojas? Meticulous analysis of the cutscene indicates that he actually re-created a 3D model of a shell casing from security camera footage, which was sufficiently hi-rez to make a match against a big bullet database. So the Russians, who had the actual shell casings to analyze, couldn’t figure that out? The security footage was crisp enough to recreate minute detail on a spent shell casing, but not of sufficient quality to identify Makarov’s face. Conclusion: Makarov’s face is smaller than a bullet.
Above: Hay guise, this bullet has favela on it! Let’s go!!
When the warriors of 141 get to South America, they make short work of tracking down their man. Unfortunately, HQ won’t send a helicopter to extract them from the favela so Soap rings up his old pal Nikolai on a payphone. Luckily, the Russian informant just so happens to be tooling around Rio in a chopper and pops right over to pick them up. The mission itself, dashing weaponless across rooftops and frantically leaping to safety, was brilliant fun in the heat of the moment. But upon reflection, we must concede that nothing about the scenario makes a bit of sense. But look, it’s Nikolai!!
Next page: Things get even wackier!